Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the category “Death”

This Has Not Been A Good Week

I HAB A CODE IN MY NODE.

About three days ago I sneezed and I said to myself, “Uh, oh. That was no ordinary sneeze. That felt like a head cold type of sneeze. I was right. The next morning I woke up with my first real nasty head cold in a couple of years.

It has been at least two years, maybe more, since I’ve had to deal with the aches and pains, sneezes, and all of the other fun symptoms of your garden variety head cold. I guess my lucky streak was over.

I knew it wasn’t the Flu or Ebola or anything serious. There isn’t any major coughing, or tummy trouble or bleeding from all body orifices – just the usual yucky stuff.

I’m telling you now – buy stock in the folks who make Kleenex because I am going through it as a vicious clip. I am burning through those tissues faster than Rosie O’Donnell at the Caesar’s Palace Buffet line.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Fear Not!

I GET A LOT OF EMAIL EVERYDAY. Very little of it is worth the electrons it’s written with. A good portion of it all comes from people trying to sell me something; Sunglasses, Art of questionable quality, Books (lots of books), and classes and seminars. I guess that means that they feel I am in desperate need of education – a point hard to dispute.

I also receive a bunch of things about writing; classes, communities, and handy dandy tools to transform me into the next big whatever.  I already have the tools – a pen, paper, and coffee that have catapulted me to the bottom rung of the ladder of commercial success.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 37 Continued

As they passed it, they both looked over into the alcove. The dead man seemed so very small. Davis walked over and pulled the pistol from Lizard Boy’s waistband and started to stick it in his belt. Laura stopped him and held out her hand. He passed it to her. They left the bundle of cash locked in the dead man’s hand.

It was only another fifty feet before they saw a set of steps rising toward a carpet-covered door.

They slowly climbed the steps and listened. They couldn’t hear anything coming from the other side.

“Well, if nothing else, we have the element of surprise,” whispered Davis. He reached for the knob.

“We hope,” said Laura and pulled his hand back from the door. She would go first. The Mexican’s pistol pointed up. 

“Let’s go, my dear,” she said. They both took a deep breath of the warm and stale air.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 36

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Six

 

warehouses“It’s at number 162, Tomás. Drive past it and let us out down the block,” said Laura, scanning the fronts of the small warehouses and workshops.

The cab slowed while Tomás craned his neck out the window looking for the address.

“There it is, Señorita. That’s it, with all the doors.”

The structure at 162 Avenida de Negocios was unlike anything Laura or Davis had ever seen before. It was built entirely out of garage doors.

“What the hell is that?” she asked.

Tomás smiled. “We Mexicans can be very resourceful. There are a quite a few buildings like this in Tijuana. They are made out of recycled garage doors from LA and San Diego. A few Mexican entrepreneurs have been importing them by the truckload. Actually, there is a whole neighborhood near here made of doors. Very clever, no?” He steered the cab over to the curb about fifty yards past the all-door structure.

“Well, Tomás,” said Laura. “Thank you for your tour of Tijuana and for your help. Bless you.”

“My pleasure, my friends. I wish you both good luck.”

Davis patted Tomás’ shoulder.

“Bless you twice, Tomás.”

Laura and Davis stepped out of the taxi onto the empty sidewalk. The cab turned at the next corner and was gone.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 35

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Five

 

pull-molinas-waitingIt was time to take care of present business and to move on to whatever the future might bring. She climbed the stairs to the second floor of Molina’s building and stood in front of his door. She was tired. She was spent physically and emotionally. The constant stress of waiting for a bullet in the back was pushing her toward the edge. She opened the door to Molina’s studio and walked up to the speaker hanging on the wall.

“I’m back, Molina. Get out here,” she shouted.

“I’ll be right there, Señorita. One moment, please,” came the tinny-sounding response.

She dropped down into one of the wooden chairs and felt all of the air leave her. She closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the green-painted wall. Sleep was all she really wanted right now. Sleep, a long soak in a warm tub, a massage and maybe a good long cry.

“Señorita? Miss Lovejoy?”

She jerked forward, disoriented for a second or two. Then her instincts took over and all of her senses were focused on Ernesto Molina who was standing in front of her, his hand on her knee.

“You are alone?” said Molina,

“For the moment, yes.”

 “Very well, come with me, Señorita.”

Molina led her back down the hall into the studio where they had done the photo shoot. There was a large plastic shopping bag sitting on the bed, the kind of bag you can buy for a dollar in every shop in Tijuana. The comforter had been pulled down and the bag was resting on the white silk sheets that Molina favored.

“I have everything you’ll need, Señorita—a complete package. Please, let me show you. I’ve done an excellent job, if I may say so myself.”

Standing beside the bed, Molina showed Laura each of the fake documents he had created. He took pleasure in pointing out the details that made them look totally authentic. None of the items looked brand new. All were more or less worn—lived-in, he called it.

“If you will notice, Señorita, I even put in a few customs stamps on both passports. It looks like you and the Señor have been to Ireland and England a few times. It adds a touch of realism.”

He was like a proud parent showing off his children to an appreciative stranger.

“Also, as you requested, Miss Lovejoy, all of the negatives.” He held up a sealed Manila envelope.

Laura was silent throughout Molina’s show. She didn’t know if what she was buying was really as good as he was claiming. It all looked real to her, but would it hold up under scrutiny?

brass-bed“Everything you asked for is here, Señorita. Very authentic, very first-rate and also very expensive.”

Laura took her eyes from the bed and looked at him. “You want your money now, don’t you?”

“Yes, please, it’s been a very stressful day for me.” Molina took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. He was sweating.

Laura shook her head and said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word, Molina.”

“How are you planning to get back into the U.S., Señorita?

“We walked here, we’ll walk back. Why do you ask?”

Molina looked at her, somewhat astonished.  “Let’s be honest here for a moment, if we may. Señorita, if you are in need of my products then, obviously, someone is looking for you. Am I right?”

“Yes, of course.” She wondered where this was leading.

Molina shook his head.

“Then, Miss Lovejoy, walking through one of the most watched border crossings in the western hemisphere is suicidal. Frankly, I’m very surprised you got this far.”

“We’re fine, thank you,” she said, not believing it herself. She just wanted to pay him and get out of there.

“I can get you back across the border, no problem. I have established an underground railroad of sorts,” he said. “I can get you both back right under the border.

“Under—a tunnel? Are you serious?” she said, genuinely surprised.

“Actually, I have several tunnels, yes, and all I have to do is simply open a file drawer and get you a ticket. I’ll even drive you to the ‘station’ if you’d like.”

“For an additional charge, of course,” Laura said.

“Of course, Señorita, I am a businessman,” he said, ignoring the sarcasm in Laura’s voice.

“I’ll pass, Molina. Let’s settle up and I’ll be on my way.” This was making her nervous.

“As you wish, Señorita, but if you come back later, the price of the ticket goes up.” He shrugged, as if he was adding of course.

“You don’t ever take no for an answer, do you, Molina?” She started to gather up the documents off of the bed.

“Rarely, my dear. After all, many times a person says no when they really mean yes.” He moved closer to her.

“Like I said before, Molina, do you want your money now or not?”

“Have it your way Señorita. Please, yes.”

She moved away from him and started to undo the buttons on her blouse to get at the money taped to her body. Molina’s eyes narrowed.

“Señorita, I normally deal strictly in cash, but I’m not against a little barter.”

He moved close to her again, reached out and grabbed her belt, licking his lips.

“Get your hands off me.” She pushed him away.

“Oh, Señorita, don’t be coy with me. Let me show you what a real man is like. Not that pale rabbit you had with you earlier today.” He moved in again. This time he was not going for her belt. He smiled and his right hand flew out and slapped Laura hard across the face. She stumbled and backed away several steps. Her hands closed into fists. As Molina stepped toward her again, Laura lashed out and hit him square in the nose with a hard left jab followed by a right cross to his jaw. He reeled back and fell to the floor. Her uncle, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull”  Gravano had taught her that combination when she was nine years old.

“Don’t you touch me. Do you understand me, you little pig? I’ll kill you right here,” she said. They were both breathing hard.

She moved toward the bed to finish getting her merchandise. Molina gathered himself and sprang to his feet, putting himself between Laura and the bed.

“You want to get to my bed, Señorita? Let me oblige you.”

He charged at her. His momentum knocked Laura off her feet and they both fell to the floor. Molina punched her hard in the stomach. The bundles of cash dulled the impact, but it still made her gasp. She tried to get to her feet, but Molina was faster. He jumped up and grabbed her from behind, around her waist, and lifted her off the ground. He spun and threw Laura onto the bed, on top of her new identity. She bounced on the soft mattress and before she could react, Molina leaped onto the bed, covering her with his body.

“Stop. Stop it, you cheap little ape,” she hissed at him.

He slapped her again. She felt the heat rising in her face.

“I’m not a cheap anything, darling, and neither are you. We are both very expensive.” He laughed, thinking that he had her right where he wanted her.

As his left hand held her down on the bed, his right snaked inside her blouse. The fear she was feeling left her and rage poured in to take its place. She punched him hard in the face again. He stopped his groping to hit her with his fist. She could taste blood in her mouth.

He smiled at the look on her face and said, “You might want to put some ice on that later.” He was enjoying this, she realized, and that had to stop.

She hit him again, aiming for his eyes with her knuckles. As he recoiled from the pain she pushed with all her strength and managed to roll them both over. She was now on top.

She looked down at him. He was grinning again.

“Ah, now you’re getting into it, eh, Laura Lovejoy?” He wrapped his legs tightly around her waist.

“You could say that.”

He laughed. “Kiss me, Laura. Besame.”

She also laughed and started to bend low over his face. Molina closed his eyes and relaxed. His smile closed into a kiss. He never saw her reach down, lift the cuff of her jeans, and pull at the tape on her calf.

“Ernesto,” she whispered

“Yes, cara mia?”

He opened his eyes just in time to see Laura driving the ice pick downward. He didn’t have time pull-icepickto scream as the tempered steel shaft skewered through his left eyeball, punched through the thin orbital bone, and plunged deep into his brain. He was dead before Laura pulled the ice pick out and jammed it into his right eye.

Then she  vomited on him.

 

***

 

The taxi with Davis and Tomás screeched to a halt outside of Molina’s building. Davis jumped out and headed toward the door.  He saw Laura slumped against the wall inside the lobby.

“My God, Laura, what’s happened? Are you alright?”

“Let’s get out of here. You’re going to have to help me.” She looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Help me, Davis.”

Tomás rushed over to them, took Laura’s left arm and scooped up the plastic shopping bag. Together he and Davis half-carried Laura back to the taxi.

“Tomás,” said Laura. “Let’s get out of here. I’ve got to think.”

“Good God, Laura, what happened? Your face…?”

“Molina tried to–he got out of hand.” She was not going to allow herself to cry. “I won’t take that from anybody.”

“I’ll kill him,” Davis said. “Tomás, wait here.”

“No!” she cried out. “Don’t do it. There’s no need…there’s no need. Tomás, I paid you to give us a tour, so drive.”

Davis’ anger faded as his concern for Laura grew. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to wipe Laura’s swollen lip and jaw. She pulled away.

“No, I’m fine, please. I love you, but I’ll be fine. Give me a few minutes and then let’s head back to the border.”

“We can’t,” Davis answered. “The border is closed. There was a gun battle with the police and some drug smugglers. The whole place is shot to pieces.”

Laura closed her eyes. She went inside herself to look for more strength, more resolve and more personal anesthesia. Her all-too-human engine was running on fumes. She slumped back in the seat. Her mind was struggling to think rationally, to go over the lessons of her past that might help them. She was looking at everything that had happened to her, everything she had seen and heard. She knew that the answer was filed away somewhere inside her memory. After about thirty seconds, she opened her eyes and leaned forward.

“Tomás, Turn around. Take us back to Molina’s.”

Tomás did a U-turn and had them outside of Molina’s building in minutes. On the way, she told them about the underground railroad and the “ticket” that Molina had tried to sell her.

Before they got out of the cab, she needed to prepare Davis for what he was about to see.

“I need you to come up with me to help find the tickets. They are somewhere in his office.”

        “You think Molina will still sell them to us?” Davis was not anxious to see Molina again. He was still angry enough to want to hurt him for what he had tried to do to the woman he loved.

“Davis…Molina is in no condition to bargain. I need your help, but I want you to understand and forgive me for what you’re going to see up there.”

Tomás said a silent prayer, thankful that she had not asked him to go upstairs with them.

“To hell with Molina,” said Davis. “Let’s get those tickets.”

Tomás waited in the cab wondering again what he had gotten himself into with these two strangers.

As soon as they walked into Molina’s studio Davis understood Laura’s words of warning.

Molina’s body was sprawled face-up on the bed. His eyes were two black, oozing holes. The bedspread and sheets were soaked with his blood. It was an ugly death.

“Jesus, Laura.” Davis was stunned. It looked like something out of a cheap slasher movie, only this was for real.

“Davis, we don’t have time. You can get sick later. He said the tickets were in a file cabinet.”

pull-fike-cabinetsThey looked everywhere in the studio. There were no file cabinets anywhere. Davis saw a frosted-glass door by the far wall. He tried the knob and it opened into a back corridor. Across the hallway was another glass door and it was open. He could see a workbench, a draftsman’s table and two rows of five-drawer file cabinets.

“Laura, back here. File cabinets.”

She hurried toward his voice.

“Bingo,” whispered Laura. “We’re looking for tickets or something that mentions a railroad of some sort. Let’s get started.”

Starting at opposite ends of the first bank of file cabinets, they rifled through folder after folder.

Ernesto Molina’s files contained blank documents of all sorts, from at least a dozen countries. He was able to create new identities in such detail that it would make real people look suspicious to the authorities.

Laura pulled out files, flipped through, and discarded them on the floor. She noticed alphabetized folders holding copies of documents and negatives. Half of the infamous missing persons in North America were in that file cabinet. Laura stopped when she saw her name typed on a protruding tab—not Laura Lovejoy, but Beverly Deltino. It contained another set of her photos and negatives. She took the folder and slipped it inside the bag holding her documents.

Halfway through the third file cabinet Laura grabbed a folder with a label marked “Ferrocarril.” Inside she saw sheets of paper, signed by Molina. At the top of each sheet was a line drawing of an old-fashioned steam locomotive.

“Davis, I think I’ve got it. Did you ever take Spanish in school?”

“I had two years in high school. Let me see it.” She handed him the folder.

Davis scanned the papers as he searched his memories of Mrs. De La Vega’s class in eleventh grade.

“It’s a permission slip. ‘Let the person with this ticket travel through the—something. I don’t know this word—ferrocarril means railroad. I’m sure of that. Here’s an address for the estacion. It looks like a ticket to me.”

There were a dozen copies, all signed, in the folder. Laura took two and stepped over to the worktable. She plucked a pen out of the coffee mug pen holder and carefully printed her new name in the blank space provided. She then printed “Davis Lovejoy” on the second sheet.

“Now, let’s get out here,” she said, as they headed for the closest exit.

They opened the door and found themselves on the landing outside of Molina’s studio. Davis looked at the door they had just used. Stenciled on the glass was “Geronimo Morey—Abogado.”

Laura never stopped to look. She was already halfway down the stairs to the street. Davis took the steps two at a time to catch up with her as she crossed the sidewalk and reached out for the door handle on Tomás’s cab.

“Tomás, do you know where 162 Avenida de Negocios is located?

“Sure, Señorita. It’s right up by the border. Lots of warehouses and small maquiladoras, little factories, not much there.”

“That’s where we’re going, quickly,” she said. “When the people at the railroad hear about Molina, they’ll shut it down.”

Driving as fast as he could without killing anyone or getting pulled over by one of Tijuana’s many motorcycle officers, Tomás took his cab through the city’s side streets near the border. They were less than a half-mile from the carnage at the San Ysidro crossing.

to be continued 1

 

 

In This Sign You Shall Fluff Dry

I POPPED INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD LAUNDROMAT the other day to take care of a few of my “nice and frilly” things when I saw a handwritten sign taped to the wall,

“Free Wi-Fi! Enjoy your time with us.”

Well, I thought that was the most sociable thing I’d ever seen in a laundromat. Most of their signs are of the “Do this” or “Don’t do that,” variety. I remember seeing a sign in a laundromat years ago that said,

“Do not put children in the dryers!”

Always sound advice I would say.

While I was waiting for my things to finish drying I overheard a woman speaking with the young lady behind the service counter. The woman had also seen the sign on the wall and had a question.

“What is this free ‘Wee-Fee’ and how do I get some?”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 34

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Four

 

pull-molinas-bldgIn the darkroom at Ernesto Molina’s photography studio a new person was being born. Years of experience in creating false documents for many of the Earth’s most dangerous people had made Molina a very wealthy man. His home was an opulent, yet tastefully decorated, house by the ocean, near Rosarita Beach. This cheap-looking studio was a place to do his work undisturbed. He owned the building.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 33

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Three

 

pull-taxiTomás wheeled his cab back over to the frontier and parked in the large lot right by the border that is reserved for taxis only.

“Señor, I am confused,” he asked Davis.  “What are we doing here?  What are we looking for?  Are you and the Señorita in trouble?”

“Yes, Tomás, but we’re not criminals.  It’s just that some people are looking for us.”

“Say no more, Señor.  I think I understand.  After all, I too, have in-laws.”

Davis let it go at that.  No sense in scaring him away.  Laura had already paid him for the full day.

“Tomás, I’m going to move up a bit closer and take a look around.  Don’t leave.”

“Señor, of course not.  May I come with you?”

“Sure, why not?  Come on.”  Another pair of eyes couldn’t hurt, Davis reasoned.

After Tomás locked up his taxi, the two of them walked up the ramp that crossed over the northbound highway leading to the Customs station.  Every few feet a young peddler approached them, offering a variety of last minute shopping opportunities.  Tomás shooed them away with a blast of rapid-fire Spanish obscenities.  Many of these merchants were ten years old or younger, and were often the biggest earners in their family.

From their vantage point Davis and Tomás could look into the plaza on the U.S. side of the border.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 32- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Two

 

pull-taxiThe cab was festooned with bobble-head dolls of Elvis, The Beatles, and Ricky Martin.  The Virgin Mary held the place of honor in the center of the dashboard.  Red and gold dingleballs circled every window and lying on the rear window deck was a three-foot-long crucifix.

The cab driver, dressed in a crisp yellow shirt, was doing his standard sales pitch to yet another pair of Yanqui tourists.

“Buenas dias.  Let Tomás be your guide for the day.  Only two hundred dollars—well  worth the price.  Tomás knows all the best restaurants and shops.  And I can get you the best seats for the bullfights.  My cousin is a matador.  Deal, okay?  Best price in Tijuana.” His accent made him sound like a parody of Cheech and Chong.

Davis looked at Laura, who was still holding the brochure outlining the benefits of membership in the San Diego Skyscrapers.  She shook her head.  This was a business trip.

“No, not today,” said Laura.  “Just drop us up on the main drag.  Maybe next time we’ll get the tour.  Okay?”

“Okay, you the boss, but, I can show you where to get genuine Armani suits for three hundred dollars, with free alterations.  Best price in Tijuana.”

“Another time, my friend,” said Davis.

Laura pulled a piece of paper from her pocket.

“Say, do you know any good photographers?” asked Laura.

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Throwback Thursday from March 2016 – “Turn Your Head And Cough”

 

Turn Your Head And Cough

 

IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE I’VE HEARD THAT. I heard it this morning.

At 8:45 this morning I had a “Medicare Wellness Exam.” The last time I had an exam that thorough I almost ended up in the Army.

My usual visits to the doctor last twenty minutes or so. This one took an hour and a half. Of course, the first fifteen minutes were with the nurse who went beyond the usual questions. Most days it is, “Have you had any headaches?” Today it was, “Can you go to the bathroom by yourself?” She also had me reading the standard cliché eye chart to determine if I was blind or not. “Can you feed yourself?” “Do you fall over easily”

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Chapter 31 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 31 – Continued

pull-border-mcd“That’s two Egg McMuffins’ with cheese and two coffees, and thank you for visiting McDonald’s, Buenos dias.”

“And buon giorno to you.”

Laura picked up the tray and turned around to look for Davis.  He had found them a table by the wall.  The restaurant was already half filled and would soon be packed, just as Vivian had predicted.

“Here we go,” she said.  “Oh, could we switch seats?  I want to be able to look out of the window.”

“Sure, no problem,” said Davis.  They traded places.  Davis could see the side door that opened onto the small parking lot and Laura could scan the entire plaza.

As she poured a pink envelope of sweetener into her coffee, Laura’s eyes picked out the good guys and the wise guys.

“Vivian was right.  This plaza is overloaded with cops and I see three guys that might be Dominic’s boys and two more over on that bench back by the train.  He must have called in reinforcements.  I don’t recognize them.  Damn!”

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Throwback Thursday from March 2015

The Five People I Almost Killed

Sedaka

FOLLOWING UP ON PREVIOUS SATURDAYS I have decided to post another piece from my catalog.

This was written as a performance piece to be done in front of a live audience.

                             ***** 

I think it is important to stress that in the title of this piece I say “almost killed,” and not “killed.” To the best of my knowledge I have never actually killed anyone. I just tend to come close. Sometimes very close and I’ve done so five times – so far. The five nearly “dearly departed” have all shared one characteristic: they are, or to a large degree were, famous. Let me explain.

 

Neil Sedaka -A pop singer and songwriter and almost the filling for a chalk outline on the pavement.

 I was driving on California Street in San Francisco up the steep grade to the top of Nob Hill. While motoring legally, staying in my lane, I noticed a fellow in a bright orange track suit jogging down the sidewalk. Under other circumstances, dressed like that, one could easily have mistaken him for a small-time Mob Soldier with poor taste in casual wear. The way things were progressing there should not have been any cause for alarm. Then Mr. Sedaka made his almost fateful move.

Without warning or, I suspect, even a sense of awareness of his heavily urban surroundings, Neil Sedaka, early Rock and Roll icon and current attraction at the Venetian Room in one of the swank hotels on Nob Hill, decided to make a sharp left turn. He veered from the safety of the sidewalk out into the street and directly into the path of my three thousand pound piece of American Steel.

 I slammed onto my brakes and my Ford began to slide on the steel Cable Car tracks. That wasn’t helping the situation. When I at last managed a complete stop and unclenched my teeth I was able to enjoy an extreme close-up of Neil Sedaka, who stood no more than six inches in front of my front bumper. I have to admit that I’ve never seen eyes that wide open on anything this side of seafood. His mouth was drawn into a grimace that was probably halfway through pronouncing something like, “Oh, crap,” or “Please God, not while I’m dressed like this.”

To say we made eye contact would be a severe understatement. I imagine that in his eyes I looked pretty scary too. I do recall that we both made a quick Sign of the Cross and I’d wager that we both pinched a sphincter as well.

 After what seemed to be several hours, but was probably no more than three seconds, Neil Sedaka, the great, and nearly late, singer of 1950s popular tunes, finished crossing the street and headed back to his hotel, no doubt for a stiff drink and a change of clothing. I continued on down California Street. I have no idea where I was headed after that. All I knew was that I came very close to having my name finally appear in the pages of Variety.

 And then there was the time that I almost killed Hollywood legend Henry Fonda.

 I was in New York City for a long weekend. I flew in to catch a few shows and see some old friends. I was not there to end the life and career of one of this nation’s finest actors. I just came close, that’s all.

It was Saturday night and I was attending a performance of “American Buffalo,” starring Robert Duvall. The theater was just down the block from Times Square. My seat was in one of the side boxes up above the sold out orchestra section. It was a good place to scan the audience for celebrities. I spotted both Kevin McCarthy of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fame and Henry Fonda. Both were resplendent in very handsome tuxedos. I was not. Put me in a tuxedo and I begin to resemble a black-tie bowling ball.

After the final curtain, as the audience was shuffling out, I was directed to join a flow of other folks and exit the theater by a side door. I guess they didn’t want us mixing with the better dressed people who were probably heading off to the Rainbow Room or some other fancy nightspot – not to Howard Johnson’s for fried clams.

When I got through the exit door I found myself on a very crowded sidewalk, filled to overflowing with happy theatergoers. I turned left and quickly headed up the street. I hadn’t gone more than fifteen feet when I collided with another impatient audience member who was hurrying to get into the long black limo parked at the curb. We slammed into each other with enough force to rock us both back on our heels. Instinctively, we both reached out in an attempt to steady ourselves and prevent falling to the ground. I grabbed onto the nearest person, as did he. I grabbed onto Henry Fonda and Henry Fonda grabbed onto me.

When we steadied a bit we both shouted, “Are you alright?” After all, Mr. Fonda was getting up in years, speeding toward his role in “On Golden Pond.” He had his entourage behind him pushing him back to a fully upright and locked position. I had him.

I’m sure the look on my face must have been a mixture of pain, shock, and “Uh-oh, I will be hated by the movie-going public forever if he dies.” The look on his face also reflected pain, shock and, “Uh-oh, this could cost me a bundle if this guy sues.”

For a remarkably skinny older gent he seemed pretty strong. He had ahold of my jacket with both hands and pulled me back up straight.

We stood there just looking at each other for a few seconds until our eyes stopped rattling. We both apologized for the collision and then we shook hands. At that point his “People” hustled him to his limo like they feared I was some sort of clumsy assassin with three names.

Kevin McCarthy was nowhere to be seen. I guess his body had been snatched safely out of my reach.

And then there was the time I almost killed Rock Superstar Graham Nash.

One of the stellar attractions of Washington D.C., aside from the ability to vent one’s frustrations by standing on the Mall and being able to shake your fists in the direction of both Congress and The White house simultaneously, is visiting the Smithsonian Institution. There you can experience both American and World cultural treasures.

A few years ago my wife and I were in D.C. and enjoying strolling through the exhibit halls of the Smithsonian. While there we saw a sign by the top of an escalator announcing an event having to with “The Greats of Rock and Roll.” I think you can see where this is going – up the escalator.

The collision, while not seismic in magnitude, certainly made an impression on both of us – actually on all three of us. This time it was my wonderful wife, Dawn, and I who “met up with” one third of Crosby, Stills and Nash. We had a two-to-one advantage.

My first impression of Graham Nash was, “Who the heck is this clumsy oaf?” My second impression was that the answer to that question was, “Me.” I have to admit that I really wasn’t paying attention to where I was going as we stepped off the escalator. I was busy reading the sign about the “Rock and Roll Greats” who were going to be visiting the Smithsonian and I turned directly into the path of the tall guy in the really nice suit.

As the pattern established in my previous near homicidal experiences, he and I grabbed each other to steady ourselves. Actually, I think we both grabbed out in an effort to steady just me. Graham Nash was much younger than Henry Fonda and I was now considerably older than I was when I rammed into Mr. Fonda.

While Dawn and I were there to just casually roam the halls, it appears that Graham Nash was there to participate in a scholarly seminar on “Woodstock, Flower Power and How David Crosby Has Managed To Still Be Alive,” or something similar.

Once we disentangled ourselves, Graham Nash and we all apologized and asked if any of us were mortally injured. Assured that we would all survive to collide another day, he hurried off to be scholarly-like and Dawn and I gazed after him, wondering out loud, “Who was that guy? He looks familiar.” Dawn commented that he certainly had a nice head of snow-white hair and I said that he was quite tall and had a great tailor. “Nice suit.”

It wasn’t long until our mutual light bulbs flashed on. “That was Graham Nash,” we both said, almost simultaneously. And we were both right. Of course, by then it was too late to prolong my grabbing hold on him and pose for some snapshots. Instead I have to be content with the memory of our brief encounter and to add him to this pantheon of my proximities with other people’s passing.

And then there was the time I almost killed well known actor Danny Glover.

I was minding my own business, not bothering anyone, when all of a sudden I found myself seatbelt deep in another near-manslaughter experience. And this time I had the feeling that at least one of us was truly going to buy the farm – and it was more likely to be me. Size matters.

I was living in San Francisco, in the old Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It is an area, in a city known for being crowded and not motorist-friendly. The streets are narrow and clogged with cars, buses, trucks, and out of work performance artists steering pedal-cabs through traffic hauling around frozen tourists from Indiana. You can always spot the tourists in San Francisco. They are the blue people. They come to California expecting it to all be sunshine and surfs-up weather. Instead they find polar current powered gale force winds and hordes of eager sweatshirt vendors.

I was in my compact Ford approaching the intersection of Haight St. and Masonic Ave. – one of the busiest intersections in the area. I was planning on going straight up Haight. Unfortunately my plans meant nothing to the guy in the huge woodland green Range Rover coming the other way who decided to make a left turn onto Masonic. I must assume that Range Rovers did not come equipped with turn signals for that model year. Either that or the other driver had never mastered the complicated ritual involved to activate his turn signals. Luckily both vehicles had good brakes. If one of us had not had them we would have ended up sharing a front seat.

The sound of screeching brakes brought all other traffic, automotive and pedestrian, to a halt. It was a shame that I had left my celebrity autograph book at home because, in that moment, I found myself bulging eyeball to bulging eyeball with Danny Glover. I enjoyed him in “The Color Purple.” I enjoyed him in all six hundred of the “Lethal Weapon” films. I did not enjoy him looming over me, with a death grip on the steering wheel of his six thousand pound chunk of British Status Symbol inches away from my car window. Danny Glover has a very large head. Perhaps it just looked that way because he was so close.

That Range Rover is a legendary off-road vehicle and Danny Glover came within inches of taking it off-road and “On-John.” My car would have, maybe, left a smudge on his bumper if we had collided. The Ford and I would have been reduced to a wet spot.

Sitting there in the intersection, Danny Glover, grimacing down at me, I felt, just for a moment mind you, like Oprah felt in the early reels of “The Color Purple.” Danny can be an imposing figure. I feel that I can call him Danny since we were so close.

Finally, other drivers on the street began to honk their horns. No one was dead. There were no flaming infernos blocking the way – just two guys who had come close to crashing. “Nothing to see here – move along, people.”

Slowly, after his blood pressure subsided and his eyeballs receded back into their sockets, Danny Glover finished his ill-advised left turn and exited both the intersection and my life. If Danny and I ever meet again under more sociable circumstances I will remind him of our first meeting and tell him that he holds a special place in my list of the five people I almost killed. And that he owes me for the cost of having my upholstery professionally cleaned.

And then there was the time I almost killed, lead guitarist of The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia.

“What a long strange trip it has been.”

Why, why, why do these things continue to happen to me?  Is it just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time? Am I meeting these people or are they meeting me? Is it all some sort of a sarcastic, dumb as a box of rocks, Kismet?

I never meant to almost shuffle off Jerry Garcia’s mortal coil. It’s not like I was stalking the man. After all, our coincidental meeting took place in my neighborhood, not his. Actually, it took place at the same intersection where I shared a special moment with Danny Glover.

This time I was the one making a turn. I was in the right-hand lane. My car had turn signals and I knew how to use them. I indicated my intention to go right onto Masonic Avenue and I started my turn. It was at this point that Jerry Garcia almost joined “The Suddenly Dead.”

While Danny Glover was at the wheel of a large off-road vehicle, Jerry Garcia, a Rock and Roll icon, adored by a huge, fanatically loyal following known as “Deadheads,” and incidentally, a very wealthy man, was moving through San Francisco traffic on a bicycle. That is a dangerous thing to do – even if I’m not nearby.

I began my turn onto Masonic, heading downhill at this point, when from behind a vehicle coming uphill, a rather chubby, bearded man on a bicycle pulls out into the downhill lane, pedaling furiously. At this point we were no more than twenty feet apart. While riding a bike in heavy traffic is risky business, doing so into the face of oncoming traffic, with me headed right at you, is just asking for it.

Calling upon my gazelle-like reflexes I hit the brakes and Jerry, with the sudden realization of the situation all over his face, swerved his bike toward the curb. I have to admit that he had a pretty good reaction time for a man his age. He threaded that bike out of traffic, over the curb, narrowly missing a tree and a large bus shelter. He skidded to a stop, across the busy sidewalk, up against the side wall of a local brew-pub. The people seated inside must have been surprised to see a real, luckily alive, rock star outside the window gasping for breath and, undoubtedly, with the pulse rate of a hummingbird.

 If I had hit him with my car, he would not have qualified for my list because of the modifier “almost.” Jerry Garcia would have died several years sooner than he did.

 As an afterthought – I was still living in that neighborhood when Jerry Garcia actually did die, without my involvement. The street was quickly besieged by news crews wanting to photograph Deadheads in Mourning. On the corner of Haight and Ashbury, ground zero for misplaced and discarded youths, CNN and a couple other news contingents were crowded around a young woman who was sitting on the sidewalk tending to several lighted candles. She appeared to be weeping and wailing. Surprisingly, she stopped suddenly, looked up at the cameras and said, “You want more, it’ll be twenty bucks.” The cash quickly appeared from the networks and she resumed her sobbing and keening for the Evening News.

 I can’t help but think that if Jerry had died underneath my Ford, instead of while in a drug treatment center, it would have been more dignified.

 Oh, well.

 Three of these near-misses with death took place while I was living in San Francisco – a quasi-risky place under the best of circumstances. Graham Nash was in Washington D.C., while Henry Fonda and I met in New York City.

As of this writing two of my semi-victims are, quite positively, dead. I had nothing to do with it, I swear. I have alibis, or at least really good plausible deniability.

Happy Birthday, Momo

stevie-wonder-surprisedIT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR THIS EARLY IN THE YEAR. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 60s. If I didn’t know better I’d call it a Spring Day. I like it.

The only dark cloud on the horizon seems to be that it is getting to be time to take the Toyota in for its 30K mile checkup and an oil change.

“Open your hood, stick out your air filter and say ‘Ahhh’.”  The mechanic grabs the fan belt and says to hit the turn signals and cough. Rotate those tires.

I don’t expect there to be any major problems. It seems to be running just fine. It goes forward when I step on the gas and it stops when I hit the brakes. Beyond that I don’t ask for much. It’s a car – not a financial advisor or a podiatrist.

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 30

Fiction Saturday

 

Chapter Thirty

 

pull-motel“Kids, I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.”

Vivian was near tears.  Davis was numb.  Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.

“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said.  “It was just bad luck.  We’re all safe.”

But she did blame Vivian in a way.  She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place.  She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 29- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 

escherHorton Plaza looked like the love child of Rube Goldberg and M.C. Escher.  Seven levels high with a hundred and forty shops, restaurants and touristy boutiques, all connected by stairs, escalators, ramps, and glass elevators.  The entire structure was painted in a full palette of pastels, with multicolored banners, flags, and flowers fluttering in the soft ocean breezes.

High up on Level Seven, in a choice corner location, was The Captain’s Table restaurant.  It had everything that a family on vacation from Nebraska could ever want—a  six page menu offering seafood delicacies named for every exotic locale on the globe, several tons of nautical-looking adornments made in China, and decals on the front door promising the acceptance of all major credit cards.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 28- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

atlantaLaura gathered up the dishes as Davis toweled himself dry in the bathroom.  She had showered first, standing under the steaming water for fifteen minutes, crying there so Davis wouldn’t see her fear manifested yet again.

“Davis, while you’re getting dressed I’m going to take the dishes back to Vivian.”

“Okay,” he called from the bathroom, “and thank her for me too.”

Vivian saw her coming across the parking lot and hit the door buzzer to let Laura into the small office.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 27- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Seven

pull-mexican-borderBoth Laura and Davis slept late the next morning. Laura had planned on a day or two of rest before crossing into Mexico.  She knew that they might need all of their strength and all of their wits.  She hadn’t come this far just to get caught or killed due to some bonehead mistake brought on by exhaustion.

She also wanted to lay low for a while to—hopefully—confuse their pursuers.  If there was no scent to follow for a couple of days they might think that Laura and Davis had already crossed into Mexico and that was that.  Or they might think that the couple had pulled a fast one on them and was heading off in another direction altogether.  Laura knew that at least for now, time was their ally.

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